In a tequila world filled with celebrities and global corporations with million dollar ad budgets, you’ve probably never heard these terms from the inside of the tequila industry: Contract Brand, Producer-Owned, or House Brand. What are they? How do these affect quality? Is there any actual difference? 

Additive-Free is really having a moment right now in the craft tequila community, but for those really seeking authenticity, next on deck is understanding Contract vs Producer-Owned brands and seeking to support the producer’s own brands in the face of over 3000 brands coming from only about 180 distilleries. 

Tequila businesses, like any business, use branding to shape their unique identity within the tequila industry and cater to a diverse range of consumer preferences. However, brand in the tequila and spirits industry is not just a marketing term – it’s a business model. Here are two primary models: owning and operating a distillery, referred to as “Producer-Owned Tequila” or “House Brand,” and collaborating with established distilleries, which is commonly known as the “Contract Brand” or “Mequila” model. The vast majority of tequilas are simply Contracted, with some distillers literally producing 100’s of brands.

With producer-owned tequilas, owners have full control over the tequila production process. Meanwhile, contract brand tequila allows them to enter the tequila market without substantial investment in building a distillery or having to capitalize laying down tequila in barrels for years. Both approaches have their own merits and considerations, which can significantly impact not only the quality of the tequila but also the economic benefit of the business for the producer’s family, employees, and community. Let’s explore the difference between contract brand and producer-owned tequila.

Contract Brand Tequila

A contract brand tequila is a tequila brand that doesn’t possess its own distillery. Instead, it collaborates with an existing distillery, referred to as a “contract distiller,” to create its tequila according to precise specifications. Sometimes, the contract brand personnel actually visit and are knowledgeable and highly involved in the production process, most are not and many brand owners have never even been to Mexico.

Contract distillation is a common practice in the spirits industry, not just in tequila. It involves a brand or company outsourcing the production of their spirit to a third-party distillery. The brand or company provides the specifications and sometimes even the agave source to the distillery, which then produces the tequila according to the brand’s requirements.

While the distillery handles the production of the tequila, the brand focuses on other aspects of the business:

    • Marketing
    • Branding
    • Distribution 

This allows the brand to build a unique identity and presence in the market without having to invest in the physical infrastructure and equipment required for distillation or aging.

George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila serves as an excellent example of a contract brand tequila. Launched in 2013, Casamigos quickly gained popularity in the tequila market. What sets it apart is the fact that George Clooney, along with his business partners, did not own a distillery when they started the brand. Instead, they contracted with an established distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, to produce their tequila according to their preferences. 

Other celebrities, despite lacking expertise in tequila production, have also collaborated with experienced distillers and industry professionals to establish their own tequila labels. Some notable celebrity-owned tequila brands include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Teremana and Justin Timberlake’s 901 Tequila. These brands have managed to blend the star power of their celebrity founders with the craftsmanship of experienced tequila producers, creating products that appeal to a wide range of consumers.

Producer-Owned Tequila or House Brand

Producer-owned or house brand tequilas refer to tequila brands that are owned and operated by the same company or family that manages the entire production process. Unlike contract brands, producer-owned tequilas are entirely under the control of the distillery or producer and provide the most economic benefit to the producer. 

Many producer-owned tequila brands are steeped in tradition and heritage. They often have a long history of tequila production, with generations of knowledge and expertise passed down through the family or company. G4 Tequila, for example, is a brand associated with the Camarena family, renowned for its longstanding involvement and significant contributions to the tequila industry. Ancestors of the current Camarenas literally seeded agave in what is now known as the Los Altos Region of tequila, as well as being the first to produce tequila outside of Tequila.

Furthermore, producer-owned tequila brands have their own aging facilities, which allows them to experiment with various aging processes and create distinct expressions such as reposado and añejo tequilas. While rooted in tradition, these tequila brands also embrace innovation. They may experiment with new aging methods, barrel types, or agave varieties to create unique and modern tequilas.

In addition to Contract Distilleries, there are also investors with storehouses of aged tequilas in barrels. When you see a new Contract Brand come to market immediately having Anejos, you can be fairly certain that they’ve simply purchased aged tequila from one of these investment groups and their warehouses of barrels, despite what the brand’s advertising will tell you about the process of producing their ‘carefully crafted’ product.

Infographic image of contract brand tequila vs producer-owned tequila

Quality and Authenticity of Tequila

Producer-owned tequilas are associated with vertical integration, where a single entity manages every stage of tequila production. With complete control over the production process, the producer can meticulously monitor the quality of their products from field to bottle, resulting in consistent and high-quality tequila. Moreover, many producer-owned tequila brands place a strong emphasis on sustainable and ethical practices, which resonate with environmentally conscious consumers. 

Contract brand tequilas, on the other hand, are generally produced in large factories that make dozens to hundreds of brands simultaneously, potentially compromising quality. In addition, most celebrity-owned tequilas employ additives to meet production demands and maintain consistency. 

It’s important to note that contract brand tequilas can also produce exceptional products when working with reputable distilleries. The choice between the two ultimately depends on individual preferences and priorities. However, for those who value authenticity, craftsmanship, a deep connection to tequila’s traditions, and economic development for rural Mexico, producer-owned tequilas are the way to go.

Why Choose G4 Tequila

If you’re seeking a more authentic and high-quality tequila experience, why opt for celebrity-endorsed tequilas when you can savor the expertise of a maestro like Felipe Camarena? 

Crafted with dedication and precision by Felipe himself, G4 Tequila, a producer-owned masterpiece, stands as a testament to the artistry of tequila-making. While celebrity-owned tequilas may capture attention, G4 Tequila prioritizes authenticity and craftsmanship, adhering to traditional methods that have been perfected over four generations and sprinkled with innovation by the Mad Scientist himself. 

Discover the rich flavors of G4 Tequila from our trusted retailers and distributors. For your convenience, you can use our store locator to find G4 Tequila near you. Do not hesitate to contact us at (312) 796-6483 or here for more information.